Experts discuss the ecological impacts of extreme climatic events

News | Posted on Thursday 19 September 2019

YESI supported a two-day conference to discuss the ecological impacts of extreme climatic events, and adaptation solutions to make ecosystems more resilient.

Recent extreme events such as Hurricane Dorian in the Carribbean, fires in the Amazon, and the UK reaching its hottest day on record a few weeks ago, make it vitally important to understand extreme events. The meeting brought together an international consortium of academics, conservation representatives and practitioners to focus on the impacts of extreme events on biodiversity across a wide range of terrestrial, marine and aquatic ecosystems. As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme events, understanding their impact on ecosystems is an urgent need, along with developing adaptation methodologies and policy recommendations.

The conference, organised with the BES Climate Change Ecology Special Interest Group, brought together eight keynote speakers from academic, policy and NGO backgrounds including: Lyndon John, Caribbean Project Coordinator with the RSPB; Caroline Ummenhofer, a researcher predicting extreme weather events, based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA; and Wendy Foden Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Climate Change group based at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. A series of offered talks and posters also provided insights into research around the world on extreme events.

During workshop discussions, attendees identified key areas where more research into the impact of extreme events is required. They agreed unanimously that it is almost impossible to create a single definition of an ‘extreme event’ - probability, impact level and duration all need to be taken into consideration. It was also noted that although individual and population responses to extreme events are often well studied, less is known about the ecological mechanisms involved in these responses and how they scale up to community and ecosystem levels. It is essential that research continues and adaptation solutions are found given that the likelihood, magnitude, and severity of extreme events, and their impacts on diverse ecosystems, are likely to increase over time.